|Hotori no sakuko 2013 USA, Japan Au Revoir l'été|
Today is the day I become a Fumi Nikaidô stalker.
"Why so late to the party?", (you ask). "Wasn't she great in Himizu "?
Sort of. But Sono is as Sono does and like he often does he asked her to overact, so I wasn't sure who she was or what she was capable of.
"Surely Why Don't You Play in Hell? won you over!"
Everything about that film won me over. Sono can get great things out of a nobody, tho. I was impressed but didn't feel like stalking was called for.
"Well then, My Man (Watashi no otoko)  surely jump started your stalker engine."
The only redeeming quality to that film was that if you squinted your eyes just a little you could imagine you were finally getting to see Aoi Miyazaki naked.
"She was the best thing in Yuki Tanada's Mourning Recipe "!
True. She was unrecognizable as a chubby clown until the last scene when she showed up without makeup and I let out an audible gasp.
"So what is it about her performance in Au Revoir l ’eté"?
There is no performance.
It's uncanny. Somehow, director Koji Fukada made this film come off like a home movie about a two week vacation Fumi took. A home movie with dashing cinematography, wonderfully composed shots, smart but simple dialog, and great performances all around.
Makiko Watanabe is only in the first scene but she's so awesome she owns the film and then disappears. It's her house that Fumi and her aunt, Makiko's sister, come to house sit while Makiko goes on vacation. I have no idea who Kanji Furutachi but he's great in this: a down home lovable douchebag. I've been reading a bit about Kiki Sugino who plays Kanji's daughter. She's one of the producer's of the film, and apparently one of the darlings of Japanese indie cinema. I'll look for more of her work as an actress, director, or producer. She seems pretty young for all these accomplishments.
Suffice to say I enjoyed everyone in this film. And it comes down to them because there isn't really any story. Fumi shows up, hangs around for a while, and then leaves. It's frustratingly beautiful.
The director, Koji Fukada, is smitten with French Cinema. That's why he gives his films French names instead of Japanese (or English). The last film I remember leaving me with such a joyous feeling was Cafe Noir (Kape neuwareu)  • South Korea. The director of that film was also enamored of French Cinema. I can also point to Nobuhiro Suwa, who trots back and forth between France and Japan. His 2/Duo  and M/Other  are two of my all time favorite films.
Is there something to this cross continental love? If any of you know of other East Asian directors who flirt with French Cinema let me know.
Anyhow, I feel like I got to know the real Fumi Nikaidô while watching this film. It's one of the most natural performances I've seen. Respect.
Summary: After dark comedy Hospitalite, writer-director Fukada Koji tells the gentle story of two young people on the cusp of adulthood searching for themselves in Au revoir l'ete. Rising star Nikaido Fumi (Himizu) plays Sakuko, a young woman who has arrived in a seaside town for summer vacation with her aunt. There, she meets Takashi (Taiga), a "nuclear refugee" who has moved to the town from Fukushima Prefecture to work at his uncle's love hotel. Over the course of two weeks, the pair develops a close bond as those around them fall into various personal crises.
A dryly amusing story about love, youth and the loss of innocence, Au revoir l’ete has earned critical acclaim from audiences at film festivals around the world, including the Tokyo International Film Festival, the Rotterdam Film Festival and the Festival des 3 Continents in France.
Tidbit - Director Fukada's liking for French rather than English titles is a deliberate nod towards the Gallic walking-and-talking cinema he admires, and there are strong echoes throughout of the late Eric Rohmer's films, especially Pauline at the Beach (Pauline à la plage, 1983), with its teenage central character who observes elders' foibles as well as going through a small learning experience of her own.